Home > Writing > Blogs > Wishing you a very Happy Holidays…And taking the opportunity to present Joan Marlow Golan, Executive Editor
I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce you to a remarkable woman: Joan Marlow Golan, Executive Editor, Steeple Hill Books. It’s the season to be thankful for our many gifts, and I consider Joan one of them. Here’s Joan!
“The greatest asset at Steeple Hill is our authors. Steeple Hill authors have won the highest awards in inspirational publishing, the Christy Award and the RITAÂ® Award, as well as myriad prestigious awards from the American Christian Fiction Writers, various regional RWA awards and other honors. Our books have been featured in the media, including The New York Times, USA Today and on The Today Show and even Jon Stewartâ€™s The Daily Show!
A: I’ve celebrated my 10th anniversary at Harlequinâ€”in some ways I feel as if Iâ€™ve been here forever, because itâ€™s such a good fit, it feels like â€œhome.â€ My first job here was as Senior Editor of Silhouette Romance, and then I became Senior Editor of Silhouette Desire. In 2003, I was asked to manage the Steeple Hill imprint, of which Iâ€™m currently Executive Editor.
“I began my publishing career in 1979. I’d spent six years getting a doctorate in English and American Literature from Harvard University and was a diehard bookaholic. When I realized that there was a job that involved actually getting paid for reading books, I knew that was the job for me. I was determined to break into publishing despite being told by many that I was â€œoverqualified and underexperiencedâ€ for an entry-level job.
“My first full-time job was as a nonfiction editor at now-defunct Hart Publishing Company, where I edited the bestseller THE 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History by Michael Hart, which has spawned many imitators. I went on to fiction, and then I discovered romance publishingâ€”it was love at first sight, and for most of my publishing career Iâ€™ve been a romance editor.
“I began my romance publishing career with Richard Gallen, a packager, and then became an editor at Berkleyâ€™s Second Chance at Love line, which I eventually managed. When my daughter was a toddler, I decided corporate life wasnâ€™t sufficiently family friendly and mommy-tracked myself for seven years, continuing to freelance.
“Working at home eventually got lonely, but I still wasnâ€™t ready to reenter corporate life, so I got into religious publishing as an editor for Catholic publisher Liguori Publications. After four years, Liguori decided to close their New York office, and by that time I was ready to come back to the corporate worldâ€”and Harlequin was ready for me. My friends think I have the dream job . . . and Iâ€™m inclined to agree! I especially value the warm relationships built up over years of working together, both in the author/agent community and with Harlequin colleagues.
Q: What are you looking for in submissions?
A: Please note that while we accept all submissions for Steeple Hill series, we do not accept unsolicited manuscripts for the single title program, which includes Steeple Hill CafeÂ®. As an editor I look for:
– Characters I care about
– A compelling, distinctive author voice
– A story that hooks me with the first sentence and wonâ€™t let me put it down.
Q: Do you have any advice for writers for Steeple Hill?
– Remember that Jesus got His points across by telling wonderful stories and do likewise.
– Keep in mind that if you do not interest an editor on page one, they arenâ€™t going to read much more (if the editor is me, I am not going to read any more).
– Try to read your work not like an author but like a consumer who has picked it up in the bookstore and is sampling to decide whether or not to buy it.
– The best way to endear yourself to your editor is to deliver your mss. on time.
Q: What are your favorite childhood novels?
A: My all-time favorite novel, which I reread every few years, is LITTLE WOMEN. I also consider it the ur-inspirational novelâ€”not only are many of the chapters named after elements from John Bunyanâ€™s Christian classic PILGRIMâ€™S PROGRESS, but the four March sisters each make an inner pilgrimage to spiritual enlightenment and each finds her mission.
Itâ€™s also a very well-written book with a dynamite first lineâ€”â€œ’Christmas wonâ€™t be Christmas without any presents,’ â€ grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.â€
At various times in my life Iâ€™ve identified with each of the sisters, but now I identify most with Marmeeâ€”who is a great role model for me as a manager. I have to admit, for me life doesnâ€™t get any better than lying in bed rereading LITTLE WOMENâ€”I find the March family endlessly fascinating, not to mention never having gotten over my childhood crush on boy-next-door Laurie.
– Another book I adored as a child and is back in print again today is HALF MAGIC by Edgar Eager. Four children, whose widowed mom works so that they are often left to their own devices, find a magic coin that grants wishesâ€”but only by halves. This leads to some terrific adventures and profound life lessons for all of the children. What I really love about this book is the authorâ€™s voice. I used to read HALF MAGIC to children I babysat for and they all loved it, too, as did my own kids. I enjoyed it just as much rereading it as an adult. If youâ€™ve never read it, treat yourself!
– Both of these beloved books have great dialog. Dialog is really important in making a novel workâ€”it can provide sparkle, humor, reveal character and fill in the backstory as well as making the pace sufficiently brisk that the reader doesnâ€™t get bored.
Q: Is being an editor what you imagined when you first decided to become one?
A: Actually, not so much. I thought all editors did was read and edit! So what do I do besides read and edit? I participate in a lot of meetings and spend untold hours responding to and generating email, and using my computer, with which I have a love-hate relationship. I also talk on the phone, which I still prefer to email for a real discussion (I respond to the human voice and tend to â€œhearâ€ books as I read them).
Q: Is there any activity you prefer to reading?
A: I do enjoy other forms of entertainment and am particularly passionate about opera and theater. In the years since my husband died, I have become an avid gardener as well, and planted over 400 bulbs this fall so that I will have â€œLittle Amsterdamâ€ in front of my house in the spring. I enjoy traveling and spent a memorable week in Rome, Italy last year. I also take a Qi Gong class, meditate, and say the Chaplet to the Divine Mercy, the prayer I feel especially called to, every day, and Iâ€™m a lector at my church.
But to answer the question, no, nothing does it for me like a good bookâ€”and I founded a bookclub in my community that has been meeting for over a decade! I especially enjoy poetry and biography in addition to fiction, with Linda Pastan and Mary Oliver my two favorite contemporary poets at the moment.
My favorite quote is by Logan Pearsall Smith: â€œPeople say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading.â€ Amen!